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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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How to Bed a Balloon: 1942

How to Bed a Balloon: 1942

May 1942. Continuing the series last seen here. "Parris Island, South Carolina. Special Marine units learning how to bed down a big barrage balloon." Photos by Pat Terry and Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information. View full size.

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Bayonets? would they would get in the way; especially given how long they are.

Limited Utility

One sees what seem to be hundreds of these things in wartime shots of British cities, the Normandy invasion fleet, etc. Though of some use in deterring low-level strafing runs by fighter aircraft, they would seem to have been less than useful against high-level bombing runs or even a skilled dive-bomber attack (say by Stukas, which the Germans had in plenitude). Still, when one has a near-monopoly on helium, one can afford to indulge in defensive systems of marginal utility, and the morale-boosting effect on the defended population or activity cannot easily be discounted.


Was the U.S. particulary worried about bombers coming from Japan? seems like a long way in 1942, on the prairies in Canada we, like the U.S. worried about incendiary balloons coming over on the newly discovered jetstream, seemed the Japanese had used it as a mode of transporting these devil balloons over to North America.

Signal Hill oil fields

We lived near Long Beach, California, during WWII and there were many barrage balloons over the oil derricks near Signal Hill. There were cables from the balloons to the ground to deter low flying enemy aircraft which might bomb the oil wells. Sometimes we could see spotlights going back and forth in the sky. It was always an eerie sight, especially at night.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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